Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christianity Replaced Paganism

Letter to the Toronto Star published December 31, 2011

In her letter, Religions evolve over centuries (Dec 28), Anita Dermer writes that Christianity adopted various mythologies of other cultures. However, Christianity didn't adopt pagan mythologies, it replaced them.

In the absence of examples, I presume she is referring to Christmas. The common error in this regard is with the timing of Christmas festivities.

During the persecutions in Rome, Christians celebrated their feast days at the same time as the pagans simply to avoid detection. Thus Christmas coincided with the Roman Saturnalia. Christians were hiding in full view. The persecutions stopped, the timing stayed,

The pagan god Woden was replaced by Father Christmas. These are not doctrinal but cultural changes, based on the fact that, if you end a pagan tradition, replace with something of greater value. That's what happened.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tricks of Shopping Malls

Notice the absence of clocks in your favourite shopping mall. Shoppers who do not know the time linger longer, and spend more.

What little seating there is, is designedly  uncomfortable. That's because seated customers are not spending customers.

Exit signs are the minimum required by fire regulations. Customers headed for the exit are not spending customers.

Santa Claus has been exiled from Toronto's Eaton Centre. Formerly, the lines of parents and children weaved up and down the length of the mall. And we know that parents in line are not buying customers. Since his presence hindered money making, exit Santa, enter an illuminated reindeer.

Also at the Eaton Centre, half of the information posts face the wrong direction, and give misleading information. This, I believe, was accidental. Nevertheless, a misdirected customer passes more retail outlets, and likely to spend more.

Research has shown that uncomfortable customers buy more impulsively. That's why many malls are over-heated and endlessly play the same caroly music.

A U.S. Shoot 'em Up

It usually takes three of a kind to establish a pattern. Here are two of a kind from the United States, apparently on the same day. Yet they establish a pattern.

A U.S. soldier was shot at his homecoming party in San Bernardino, California. He had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan where he survived a suicide bombing. Police said that the victim's brother and a partygoer got into an argument over football teams. When the soldier intervened, the partygoer pulled a gun and opened fire. The veteran is permanently paralyzed from the neck down.

Another report tells of seven people all of the same family found shot to death in a Dallas apartment. Six of the dead were opening Christmas presents when the shooting began. Police believe the shooter to be among the dead. They also found two handguns. Police said, "We think he was just inside there celebrating Christmas with the rest of them and decided for whatever reason that's how he's going to end things."

The pattern is the total absence in such reports of the need for gun control. Such is the hold of the National Rifle Association -- the lobbying arm of gun and munitions manufacturers. Such is the mind-boggling interpretation of the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


To be sung to the tune, more or less, of Maria from The West Side Story

The most beautiful sound I ever heard,
All the beautiful sounds of the world
in a single word, IKEA.

I just found a store named IKEA
And suddenly my world
Will never be the same to me, IKEA

I just found a store named IKEA
And suddenly I found
How wonderful shopping can be, IKEA.

Go down aisle twelve, there's music playing;
Check out Bin Four, you’ll be saving. IKEA
I'll never stop saying IKEA

Sing it loud and there's elevator music playing.
Sing it soft and it's almost like praying.

I'll never stop singing IKEA
The most beautiful sound I ever heard.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Crash Course in Class-Action Nonsense

A class-action lawsuit has been authorized by a Quebec court against Air Canada, a company in business transporting people and goods. The airline charges for each seat passengers occupy.

In this action, obese people claim it discriminatory to be charged for the two seats one of them needs to occupy. About 15 people have already joined the suit that seeks $1,000 for pain, suffering or inconvenience, plus an additional $500 for punitive and exemplary damages. The instigating lawyer invites people with a medical condition to join the suit which also claimed as discriminatory the airline charging for two seats when the ill person requires a companion on the trip.

Back in 1957,  Midgets of America demanded: half fare, two in a seat for half-fare, free rides in "big people's" laps if they are willing, or free rides in over-head racks in exchange for entertaining other passengers. It is not reported how this issue was resolved.

Air Canada, like any other carrier, offers the public aircraft with seats of fixed dimensions to anyone who can fit into them. The company may lose money on give-away seats. Samoa Air has a part-solution. The fare is determined by the combined weight of passenger and baggage. The missing part is the need for two seats for one passenger.

May an obese person sue a taxi company because he cannot fit through the car door? May someone with a medical condition sue a rail or coach line because they cannot accommodate necessary medical devices? In Michigan, a blind Muslim woman uses a seeing-eye pony, because some Muslims believe that dogs "violate ritual purity." May this person sue local bus operators if her animal cannot fit on their vehicle?

"It's a violation of fundamental rights to discriminate against people with [medical] deficiencies," the lawyers state. The question remains: When did it become a fundamental right to fly Air Canada or any other airline, railroad, bus, limousine or rickshaw?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Human Rights Decisions and Other Mischief

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ordered Coffee Time owner, Sien Yian Tay, to pay Zuper Direk $15,000. The crime? The operator called Direk a "gypsy" as the latter badmouthed the coffee to other customers. The Commission decision itself smacks of racial discrimination. How would a member of Roma, i.e.Gypsy, regard the calling another person a member of his race an insult?

Other recent decision of equal wrongheadedness.

A Federal Court judge, Madame Justice Marie-Josée Bédard, ordered Air Canada to pay Michel and Lynda Thibodeau $12,000. Air Canada failed to provide the aggrieved couple with services in French. The learned judge decided that the violation of the plaintiffs' rights "caused them a moral prejudice, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of the vacation".

A New Brunswick appellate court dismissed two drunk driving charges against an Acadian francophone. The arresting officer spoke to the accused in English, despite hearing his strong French accent, and later gave him a roadside breathalyzer test which he failed. Thirty minutes later the accused was asked his preferred language. The appellate court ruled that the thirty-minute delay constituted a violation of the drunk driver's rights. Even courts can make strange judgements.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ordered the Brampton Youth Hockey Association to pay sisters Robyn and Shaunna Demars $18,000. Tribunalist Judith Hinchman found that the association prevented the girls from using the boys' dressing room, and failed to find a suitable room elsewhere.

The Quebec Human Rights Commission ordered a condominium board to pay Marise Myrand $10,000. The board discriminated against Myrand in not taking the parking spot of a woman in her 60s who suffers from a dislocated shoulder, and give it to her. Commission lawyer Pierre-Yves Bourdeau said, "It's reasonable accommodation" to displace an elderly handicapped woman for an obese one. The condo lawyer observed that the Commission has established a hierarchy of handicaps.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ordered Mississauga businesswoman Maxcine Telfer to pay $36,000 to Seema Saadi, an employee of six weeks. Saadi said she felt pressured to wear skirts rather than her hijab, and Telfer complained about the smell of food she warmed in the microwave. Saadi was fired. Her complaint was discrimination "on grounds of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, disability and sex". Her lawyers. operating at tax-payer expense, obtained a writ of seizure of Telfer's home to collect the money.

The Ontario Superior Court quashed the conviction and ordered a new hearing before a different tribunal officer. The Court said, it was "simply not possible to logically follow the pathway taken by the adjudicator." It found nine points in which the adjudicator failed to provide a fair hearing, or made legal errors. For example, the adjudicator did not give Telfer the opportunity to call a key witness who would have testified about Saadi's choice of clothing, and her "unauthorized intrusions into other people's desks, and missing files." (The silencing of material witnesses is a technique borrowed from the courts in Burma.)

It's depressing to thank of the result had the businesswoman not the resources this appeal this wrong-headed decision.

And this, according to Barbara Hall, in her fading time as Ontario Chief Human Rights Commissioner, is only "the tip of the iceberg". The good ship Common Sense has already struck the Barbara Hall iceberg.

How much injustice remains uncorrected when the accused cannot afford to appeal the adjudicator's judgement? On the other hand, the complainant's legal fees, even on appeal, are paid by the taxpayer.

Fines levied should go into general revenue, not to the "aggrieved". This would result in a much lower number of complaints. The net result would be that these commissions would no longer be viewed by the public as an easy source of tax-free money.

Conrad Black has observed, "I doubt if the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] accomplished much substantially beyond unleashing Canada's under-qualified judges to meddle open-endedly in social animation."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christianity and Diversity

Letter published in the National Post, December 3, 2011

As usual, Rex Murphy presents readers with insightful comment (What the tolerant must tolerate, Nov. 26). Murphy points out that "there is a radical inconsistency to the treatment afforded to Christian believers and that of most other religious groups."

We constantly hear appeals for tolerance. The question remains -- Why does it not apply to Christians? Why does diversity not include Christianity? Too much contemporary behaviour seeks to obliterate our Christian heritage.

In Canadian media, the National Post stands out as a giant among pygmies in its coverage of religious, particularly Christian, matters.

Church and State

Unpublished email to the National Post, Dec 5, 2011

Gagan Rehill (Letter, Dec.5) writes that the U.S. Constitution "clearly stated the separation of church and state". Not even remotely so. Nowhere in the Constitution does that expression appear. The First Amendment speaks to the protect churches against governmental interference, that is, against the establishment of a church.

Later judicial distortions of this obvious meaning gave rise to the American concept of separation of church and state. Fortunately, it is irrelevant in Canada where we do not get into the nitpicking about such matters.

Mr. Rehill should know that the first to advocate recognition of the duality of church and state was Jesus when he said, "Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar -- and to God what belongs to God." Is it because they do not believe in God that atheists are unable to acknowledge this distinction?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bombs From an Earlier Generation

An unexploded bomb dropped by the Allied air force during World War Two has this week been defused in the German city of Koblenz. In 1997, the President of Germany was forced out of his residence due to the discovery of unexploded ordinance under the presidential palace. Soon after that, thousands of residents of Hanover were evacuated while another bomb was defused.

Given that 2,000 tonnes of bombs and munitions are found each year in Germany, there is nothing unusual in this. Some of these air raids consisted of up to 3,000 bombers -- American by day, British and Canadian by night.

Sixty-five years after the last bomb was dropped during the Second World War, danger still lurks. There are areas of France which have yet to be cleared of First World War ordinance.

It's poignant to reflect that some of those bombs were manufactured in Toronto, dropped from aircraft made in Toronto, and flown by young men from Toronto.

Unexploded German bombs continue to be uncovered in England. The Imperial War Museum estimates that of the 19,000 tonnes of bombs dropped on London during the Blitz of 1940-41, 10 per cent did not explode, much of it remains buried somewhere in the city.

People, not then born, live today with a legacy of possible sudden death bequeathed to them by people likely no longer alive.

A legacy of the First World War continues to take lives one century later. During one of the epic battles at Ypres in Belgium, the British alone fired more than four million shells into the German lines. An estimated 30 per cent of those shells were duds or slipped deep into the ground unexploded, causing two or three deaths of local villagers a year. Farmers refuse to plough their fields, for fear a blade must strike a shell. Curiously, this ordinance rises ever so slightly as time goes by..

We have cause to worry at home as well. In April 2014, a 105-millimetre live shell was found on the land of the Enoch Cree First Nation west of Edmonton, Alberta. From 1942 to 1944, part of this land was used by the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to teach Allied crews navigation and bombing techniques.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Medieval Education

In a recent report (Deliver us from the universities), National Post columnist George Jonas wrote that the "origin of schools and scholars is ecclesiastical, not liberal." This implies a difference, if not a dichotomy, between ecclesiastical and liberal.

History illustrates otherwise. In the Western World, the liberal arts began in Catholic institutions. Refusal to acknowledge this fact still handicaps victims of the Enlightenment who speak of "bookish monks looking for heresy", and use the word medieval as a pejorative.

What was actually taught in these places of learning?

Erasmus (1466-1536): "The task of fashioning the young includes instilling a love for, and thorough knowledge of, the liberal arts."

Required reading for Thomas More (1478-1535) while at Oxford included Aristotle, Boethius, Cicero and Ovid.

The curriculum of the sixth century cathedral schools consisted of the seven liberal arts. Boethius (475-525) listed them: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bicycle Safety

Email to the Toronto Star. Unpublished

Re Woman killed when bike collides with large truck, Nov. 8 (2011):

There are ways of reducing such tragedies. One would require the installation of turn signals every two or three meters along the sides of large vehicles, and that they be operated well in advance of the intersection where the driver intends to turn. Similarly with cars, turn signals should be incorporated into the outside rear mirrors. And rear turn signals should be mounted on the roof corners of cars, as with the DS model of the French Citroen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Food Engineering

A November 2, 2001 newspaper report tells of food experiments in the American military. "The U.S. army wants its soldiers on the battlefield alert and performing well," the report begins. "Our mission it to assure the U.S. fighters are the best fed in the world."

Soldiers receive a variety of foods, from caffeinated meat sticks to baked goods containing omega-3 acids. The latter reduce bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol, we are told. The caffeine would keep them alert. Another experiment involves a complex carbohydrate called maltodextrin. This source of "extra energy" is served in apple sauce, dubbed Zapplesauce."

Is this the cold hand of big business directing the Soldier Research Development and Engineering Center of Massachusetts? In time, soldiers coming home from war may be addicted to these concoctions.

Coming soon to a grocery shelf near you will be "nutritious and battle-tested (fill in product name)."

On the other hand, this food manipulation may be kept secret in order to get the public addicted to certain products. Business interests have already successfully lobbied governments to enact laws to keep consumers unaware of food products that have been genetically modified. These same interests may keep the public ignorant as to which products are laced with caffeine, Omega-3 acids, maltodextrin, or whatever.

Note: The European Union proposed that sugar and fat content be included on food labels. This initiative was snuffed out by food industry lobbyists.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Indian Residential Schools

Email to the Toronto Star, October 31, 2011, Not published.

Re A century of RCMP ignorance (Oct 30):

Media reports of the Indian residential schools has left the general public with the belief that 150,000 aboriginal children were "torn" from their families, "forced to lose their culture", "brutally punished",  and "sexually abused." Without minimizing what harm was done, there is an untold aspect to the story.

The Mt. Elgin Indian Residential School in south western Ontario was built in 1849 by an Ojibway chief, Peter Jones, also a Methodist minister. Jones visited England to raise building funds, while local aboriginals donated land for the school and model farm. As there was no federal government at that time, the school was totally church-financed.

Mt. Elgin and other schools in the area were located on land donated by Aboriginals. School was a short walk from home. Attendance required no compulsion.

Chief Jones intended that classes be taught in English. No talk or fear of "cultural genocide."

The James Bay treaty, among other treaties, was signed by Indian chiefs who realized the benefits of a European education. They knew the operative language was English -- the common language among children of different tribes. To state the signatories were unaware of what they were doing smacks of paternalism.

Discipline in these schools differed little from that in public and parochial schools of the time.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been informed that some of the sexual abuse was perpetrated by senior students and band elders.

Lea Meadows, a worker in human rights and conflict management for 20 years, and an Aboriginal, wrote in the Calgary Herald that her mother's time in a residential school "included some of the happiest days of her life," that her education helped her through university where she became a teacher, and that she returned to teach at a residential school "to provide the same opportunity for other aboriginal girls and boys".

Common media opposition to the contrary, it is also to be hoped the Commission learns of those who benefited from their residential school experience.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Feast of Life - a Prayer

Dear God, thank you for the feast of life
You have spread before us.
Grant us the courage and strength
To drink deeply the wine of joy,
To savour fully the fruits of the earth, and
To enjoy completely the friendships we have created.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bombardier versus the Taxpayer

Since 1982, Bombardier Inc. has received over $1-billion in government grants and loans.

According to Andrew Coyne writing in Maclean's, Bombardier is not in the aircraft business. "It's business is collecting subsidies. The aircraft are effectively loss leaders, sweeteners thrown in to keep the supply of government funds coming ..." The cost of these subsidies is borne by the taxpayer.

The company recently posted notices of dividends. One would think the government to demand re-payment of this corporate welfare before the company is allowed to distribute profits to shareholders.

To the extent that dividends are paid, to that extent the taxpayer is subsidising the company's shareholders.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Government Attacks on the Family

The first principle of society consists in the marriage bond, the next in children. So declared Cicero 2,000 years ago. As the basic unit of society, the family plays the primary role in education. So declares the Charter of the United Nations.

Historically, education began in the home, then with private tutors, eventually with teaching institutions operated by non-governmental secular and religious organizations. Government is a late-comer to this process.

A public servant of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) bearing the title "co-ordinating superintendent, equitable and inclusive schools" recently published and distributed student planners to Grade Two pupils. Among other topics, the planner referred to prostitution, female circumcision, Dyke marches and Palestinian solidarity.

On the provincial level, Ontario Transportation Minister (and former Education Minister) Kathleen Wynne, a lesbian, uses her office to promote a curriculum that teaches sexual orientation in Grade Three, masturbation in Grade Six, anal intercourse in Grade Seven.

Premier Dalton McGuinty approves of men prancing naked down our main streets, and on parade floats rubbing their genitals, and simulating anal sex. Under the guise of “equity,” the Ontario government urges schools to participate in the Pride parades.

From the TDSB text book Are You A Boy Or A Girl?

Page 44: Read some traditional folktales and fairy tales with the class. Have students write/illustrate their own "gender bending" versions.

Page 53: The class discusses the the significance of Toronto's annual Pride Week celebrations.

Pages 54-56: Search images of Pride Week ... make posters for the TDSB float and/or school bus that are in the Pride Parade. Additionally, students have their own Pride Parade in their school.

Page 56: Read Gloria Goes to Gay Pride. If this story book is not available, cut out a photo from a newspaper or magazine of the Pride Parade.

The common media tell us to take our families to Pride activities. Yet these same people censor their coverage of the event by not publishing photographs of naked participants, or blanking out their genitals. They do not want children to see these things in their media, yet affirm that viewing it in the flesh is quite acceptable.

What the Ontario government describes as consultation is merely telling parents what will happen. "We do not take public referenda on curriculum," Wynne condescendingly warns. Big Sister knows best.

Parents are not allowed to remove their children from the classroom during controversial discussions. The TDSB won't even tell parents when it happens. Study after study has revealed that students learn better when teachers and parents work closely together. This initiative alienates a large part of the population, to the detriment of our children.

Among other measures lacking transparency is the TDSB's Curriculum - JK to grade 3. It orders: "Should schools send notes of permission slips home before starting any classroom work on LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual/two spirited, queer) issues. NO."

If parents decide to homeschool their children, Ontario Human Rights Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall will examine all educational materials to ensure it includes what Commissar Hall (as she is know in the media) deems adequate promotion of homosexuality.

Ontario's future is foreshadowed in London, England. Teachers there must report any children, as young as three years old, who utter words deemed by the teachers to be politically incorrect. Accused children's names are entered into a government data base where they are permanently recorded as racist or Islamophobic etc., depending on what was said. This information remains there to be used against them as adults.

In June 2009, Swedish police and social workers seized a seven-year-old boy from his family because his parents chose to homeschool him. Authorities have permanently destroyed parental rights, and actually jailed some parents. Sweden learned this from Germany where homeschooling was first declared a crime by the Nazis. That's what purported modern governments are capable of doing.

Back in Ontario, we have bureaucrats and politicians imposing on our young people their views of sex, family life and other personal matters beyond their authority. This unwarranted intrusion into the exclusive jurisdiction of parents is an attack on the family.

State intervention into education must be limited to tax gathering, basic curricula standards, and uniformity of examinations. It must not use education to further a political or social agenda.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Right to be Offensive

One evening last February, French fashion designer John Galliano, in a drunken, drug-driven stupor, shouted racist and anti-Semitic insults at a couple in a Parisian restaurant. He lost his job at the Dior fashion house, and was charged with the crime of rendering "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity." Yes, that's actually a crime in France. He faced six months in prison and a $30,000 fine. Found guilty, he was sentenced to a suspended fine.

Feel-good laws override basic rights, in this case, the right to be offensive. They attack freedom of expression. Galliano's confrontation was non-violent. The only harm done was hurt feelings -- a matter better settled in civil court.

In a different context, Salman Rushdie advised, "It's better that even the worst things be expressed. Evil doesn't disappear by being obscured."

From a Globe and Mail editorial of November 6, 2010 -- "This newspaper has argued that offensive and disgusting opinions, including deeply racist ones, should not be criminalized under anti-hate laws, because those laws may silence legitimate debate and because the best way to deal with offensive views is to trounce them in the public square. But we draw the line at expression that promotes violence."

The post you are now reading was influenced by our family's experiences in downtown Toronto in the 1930s and 1940s. Some neighbours regularly shouted across George Street, "dirty Catholics," "dirty Germans" and other terms of endearment.. My parents were German-speaking Austrians. Our reaction was that those neighbours had a problem, not us. This harassment in no way diminished our self-confidence, as is too often now alleged by "victims" in similar circumstances. Our neighbours, all of whom later became good friends, had the right to be offensive, the right to be wrong.

Had there been a human rights commission at the time, my parents would have avoided it. Had they done so, and the neighbours forced to give us a bag of money, as is the incentive today, would we ever have become friends?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Raelian Madness at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal

A copy of this blog post has been sent to Jeff Poirier, Senior Policy Analyst, Ontario Human Rights Commission. No reply.

In 1973, while wandering through the woods of France, race-car driver Claude Vorilhon encountered a UFO.  This inspired him to found Raelism.  According to the organization's website, the UFO occupants informed Raël (Vorilhon's cult name) that life on Earth was scientifically created by extraterrestrials.  The organization is currently looking for land on which to build an embassy for these visitors from space.

Among other things, Wikipedia tell us that Raëlians boast liberal views of sexuality which are shared by women who make up a significant number of the organization. These women are strong advocates of refinement and erotic sensualism, and participate in groups such as Raël's Girls and the Order of Angels. An off-shoot organization is the Raël Happiness Academy. On their own website, they describe themselves as a cult.

In November 2006, an Ontario school board hired three members of the Canadian branch of this group to provide "emotional pedagogy" training for its teachers. The cult delivered such sessions through their Academy of Pleasurology and Emotional Intelligence. Two months later, the board did some research and decided to end the contract.

The usual course of action would be a court action for breach of contract. But no, the Raëlians appealed to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. On December 15, 2010, tribunal vice-president Michelle Flaherty ruled Raëlism to be a religion, despite the fact they claim to be atheists, and that the board in breaching the contract had discriminated against them the basis of their beliefs. It was not revealed how much the board was ordered to pay the aggrieved party. The OHRC is famous for over-the-top financial awards.

As for Michelle Flaherty, the OHR Tribunal website offers a biography indicating no experience in religious matters. Yet, her authority allows her to declare a religion what common sense and the plaintiff's website tell us is a sex organization with beliefs in matters extraterrestrial. According to the Toronto Star, "Raëlians consider themselves as atheists, but believe scientists from another planet came to Earth and created all life."

On August 26, comes news that this cult is involved with a proposal for women to march topless through a city park. In the belief that this promotes sexual equality, the men of the cult will wear bikini tops. Google Raelian sensual meditation.

The more one reads about Raelism, the more mind boggling the Flaherty decision becomes. Did she even check their website? Yet again, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and its Big Brother Commission stand on the wrong aside of common sense. How much longer must Ontario taxpayers support this nonsense?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Medieval" a Pejorative?

A quick summary of some of the massacres, slaughters and ethic cleansing in the twentieth century:

1.5 million Armenians (1915-23); 7 million Ukrainians (1930s); 6 million Jews (1933-45); 2 million Chinese (1937-45), 30 million (1966-76) and  6-8 million in Chinese slave camps; 250,000 Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945); 2 million Nigerian Ibos (1967-70); 1.5 million Cambodians (1975-79); 150,000 Iraqi Kurds (1988); 200,000 Bosnian Muslims (1994); 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis (1994); 200,000 East Timorese (1967-96); 500,000 Ugandans under Idi Amin Dada (1971-1979) etc.

Compared to these numbers, civilians killed during the Middle Ages would today be "collateral damage." Dare we use the word medieval as a pejorative?

To describe something as backward, murderous, torturous or insane, better to say, "It is so twentieth century."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

McLuhan's Message

Letter published in the Toronto Star, July 22, 2011

Re The fall and rise of Marshall McLuhan, Opinion, July 20:

Philip Marchand neatly encapsulates Marshall McLuhan's message: "With understanding, there is no such thing as inevitability."

Visual symbols are media techniques designed to paralyse the mind, McLuhan warned. In his first book, The Mechanical Bride, he instructs us how to read, study and understand 60 advertisements. It is a source of strength if we are aware of, and understand how, media attempt to manipulate us.

From this, we can each develop personal strategies for dealing with the messages that constantly bombard us. My former professor's reaction to all this was amusement.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Canadian Superiority?

From a note to Richard Gwyn concerning his May 14, 2011, newspaper report about Canadians' feelings of superiority over Americans.

If I have a sense of moral superiority over our "American cousins," it would be for reasons not mentioned in your recent piece. It deals with a comparison of the development of our two nations. The difference, in a word, is "violence".

The U.S. was conceived in a violent revolutionary war. We all know how relatively amicably Canada achieved nationhood. Because our history is quieter, some consider us dull. That suits me.

The American Civil War was the deadliest in all history -- if one compares the number killed against the size of the warring populations. In one particular day, Americans killed 20,000 of their own. In comparison, Canadian "rebellions" were picnics. Civil unrest consisted mainly of skirmishes on street corners after the pitchfork-wielding rebels emerged from the local tavern

The development of the American west occurred through violence, never mind the violence against the aboriginals. Homesteaders fought for land. There's a famous drawing by Charles Jefferys that illustrates how Ontario was settled. On a certain day, loyalists appeared at a designated place. Each drew a piece of paper from a hat. This gave them ownership of a certain plot of land -- no fighting, no shooting, no violence, all very Canadian.

Known murderers roamed the streets in the U.S. west. If the sheriff proclaimed law and order, he was shot. It took the U.S. cavalry, lynch mobs and vigilantes, the latter with their history for even greater violence, to produce a modicum or order.The plot of my favourite film, High Noon with Gary Cooper, while fiction, would not have been plausible in Canada where the North West Mounted Police, not an isolated sheriff,  assured that law preceded settlement.

Peace, order and good government (originally peace, welfare and good government) still reflects our attitude of courtesy and non-violence. This is well described by John Ralston Saul in his book, A Fair Country. Whereas, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and "the right to bear arms" have abetted a murderous gun culture.

If it takes violence to be noticed, world, avert your eyes from Canada.You will notice us again when Europe again needs liberating, or when there is a cry for peacekeeping.

No, I don't feel a superiority to the United States, just pity.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nortel and Employee Benefits

"Disabled Nortel workers suffer again," states the headline. The report is about how, yet again, employees of that fallen electronics giant are dispossessed of their entitlements.

Employee wages and benefits must rank first in line when a company's assets are sold off. To deprive, however legally, a worker of his due is a wrong that cries to heaven for vengeance. No similar treatment awaits investors' losses. The law must be changed to put workers first.

P.S. Criminal action against those who destroyed the company ended when the court found them not guilty.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Right Trumps a Privilege

For many years now, the Ontario Government's Official Driver's Handbook has stated boldly on the first page of: "Driving is a privilege --- not a right."

I'll give the one who wrote that example of wrong-headed thinking the benefit of the doubt. He/she was unaware of the meaning of "right" and "privilege".

Having passed the written and practical tests, the applicant has the right to the licence. The government does not bestow it on him as privilege. Should he drive in such a manner as to endanger society, his licence may be revoked.

Thus, drivers gain or loses their licence through their own efforts, or lack thereof, and not through governmental prerogative.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fee-Sniffing Lawyers

Letter to The Globe and Mail, April 21, 2011. Unpublished

The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that judges be permitted to state pay rates for lawyers (Ruling broadens judges' right to decide what lawyers are paid, Apr. 21). This is a good first step.

The next step would completely free the public from the monopolistic practice of fee-sniffing lawyers setting their own rates. A new board of non-lawyers would determine rates, independently of the courts and free of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Only in this way can the public be assured they are paying fair market prices for services rendered.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Human Rights Laws Lead to Despotism

A copy of the blog post has been sent to Jeff Poirier, Senior Policy Analyst, Ontario Human Rights Commission. No reply expected or received.

The European Court of Justice recently ruled that car insurance companies discriminate by charging men higher premiums than those charged to women. The court ignored that fact that these premiums are business decisions based on real-world experience. The frightening point is that the ruling was based on the court's concept of human rights.

Human rights legislation is essentially idealism on paper. It is subject to gross violations of common sense, to whims and notions. Historically, utopian idealism has often led to despotism -- the Spanish Inquisition, American vigilantism, Soviet Communism, Nazi Holocaust, the agrarian utopia pursued by the Khamer Rouge in the 1970s,  In each case, the protagonists believed they were purifying the world of some evil -- heresy, social unrest, religion, non-Aryans, or capitalism. Similar attempts at purification are discernible more recently and closer to home.

A second feature of utopian behaviour is the need to expand. In the examples above, the action was halted, either externally by an outside party or internally by time.

In its near-Messianic yearning for more power, the Ontario Human Rights Commission seeks its version of the perfect society. It has asked for authority to levy unlimited fines on anyone with whose opinions it disagrees. The Commission believes this will purge society of social evils. This is evident in its links to "human rights."

Such tribunals search for more wrongs to correct. For example, overriding the family's right to determine children's education, this Commission has arrogated to itself the mandate to decontaminate all educational material, including that used in homeschooling. All must be approved to insure conformity to the Commission's idea of propriety.

Several years ago, this same Commission sought authority to censor the Internet.

Almost sadistically, it wants to punish anyone who causes injury to another's "dignity, feelings and self-respect" These are the vague, undefined words on which such tribunals base their destructive decisions.

Even if the case is dismissed after horrendous legal costs to the defendant, he has no legal recourse against the complainant as he would have in a real court. The process itself is the punishment, and the perpetrators feel justified..

This conforms to the utopianism described by Brooklyn College philosopher Thomas Molnar as a "delirious ideal stamped with the madness of logic." He continues, "[T]hey want so thoroughly to organize freedom that they turn it into slavery."

Professor Emeritus Ian Hunter of the University of Western Ontario Law School describes how this has occurred. "An important part of the answer I suggest lies in the essential theological nature of human rights legislation. To a secular society, the quest for equality fulfills the same yearning as, in centuries past, did the quest for God. The religious vision of heaven . . . has been replaced by a utopian vision of an egalitarian society to be obtained through charters, human-rights commissions, affirmative action and legislated codes of behaviour."

Before this fledgling despotism begins to fly, we have a choice. Abolish human rights commissions and tribunals altogether, and leave such matters to real courts where innocence is presumed. Or turn human rights laws into real laws with strict limitations and definitions of all operative words. The present criteria of political correctness, feelings, tendencies and vagueness merely fuel the utopian fires of despotism.

The public immediately saw these tribunals as cash cows. By lodging a no-cost complaint, one might demand and receive thousands of dollars. The solution is to order levied fines to be paid into general revenue, not to the complainant. The resultant steep decline in complaints would prove the commissions were hardly needed in the first instance.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Terry Jones Wanted for Murder

On March 20, 2011, Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida authorized the burning a copy of the Quran. As a result, in Afghanistan, mobs killed United Nations staff. In Pakistan, Christians were killed, their church burned to the ground. Likely, other acts of violence occurred as a result of his action.

Since World War Two, an expanding concept of justice gave rise to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, as well as a multitude of boards and commissions with international jurisdiction.

The action of Terry Jones gives cause for further expansion of international law.
Jones must be tried for murder. The prosecution should have little difficulty in establishing his awareness of the likely consequences of his act, and therefore intent, as well as a causal connection between his behaviour and the killings.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What is "Islamophobia"?

Note to Jeff Poirier, Senior Policy Analyst, Ontario Human Rights Commission. Unanswered.

Thank you for your reply to my request for the OHRC's definition of Islamophobia. This definition sorely needs editing. I would prefer to see the Commission define precisely, not describe vaguely, the words by which it operates. The OHRC's definition is followed by my suggestions for improvement:

"A contemporary and emerging form of racism in Canada has been termed 'Islamophobia'. Islamophobia can be described as stereotypes, bias or acts of hostility towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial profiling, Islamophobia leads to viewing Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional and societal level."
Correction: “contemporary and emerging If something is emerging, it is contemporary. The writer likely meant contemporary and growing.

"form of racism" 

Correction: Islam is not a race. If a Caucasian Muslim were discriminated against by other Caucasians, would you call that racism? The description assumes that all Muslims are of one race. That is stereotyping.

"has been termed" 

Correction: Termed, by whom? The passive voice is inappropriate in serious matters. It indicates hesitancy and doubt.

"Islamophobia can be described" 
Cirrection: The passive voice again. This should state: "Islamophobia is"

"stereotypes ... towards." 

Correction: One does not stereotype towards something. And again the passive voice.

"bias or acts of hostility" 

Question: Is refusal to accept a copy of the Koran when handed out on the street an act of hostility? It certainly is bias. Bias is not necessarily bad.

"individual acts of intolerance" 
Question: As defined by whom? Had I commented unkindly as I returned the book, or accepted it and threw it away, would that have been intolerance? No, it would have been rudeness.

"racial profiling" 

Correction: It required racial profiling for the Toronto School Board to open a school for black students. It is racial profiling to question why there is a disproportionate number of aboriginals in our jails. It is racial profiling to inquire why Asian students on average score better marks than Caucasian students, who score better than black students. Or to ask why 40 per cent of black students drop out of school. Of course it is, but for worthy objectives. Racial profiling is not necessarily bad..

"viewing Muslims as a greater security threat" 
Question: Greater than what? Is viewing them as a great or normal security threat permissible? And bad only when it becomes greater?

"on an institutional and societal level" 
Question:  What does this mean? If it's bad, it's bad on any level.

Friday, March 11, 2011

How's This for Intimidation?

Air Canada, perturbed by the recent spate of head bashing in the National Hockey League (NHL), issued this statement: "It is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents..."

How did NHL commissioner Gary Bettman react to Air Canada's $6-million annual sponsorship? Did he even promise to look into the mischief that has devastated, among others, the Lindros and Crosby families? Unfortunately, he took the low road by threatening to take the league's business to another airline.

Tim Horton's echoed the concerns of Air Canada. Will the coffee emporium feel the full Bettman wrath as he bans Tim Bits from the locker rooms? Will he refuse to roll up the rim? We can already hear coffee mugs rattling with fear.

Via Rail joined the demand that these young men be better protected. Dare hockey fans await a more positive reaction from Mr. B.?

The following Saturday, Don Cherry, dressed as an overweight leprechaun, made his usual bombastic Hockey Night in Canada appearance. Waxing righteous, he emoted in his wearisome trademark bully-boy fashion. He castigated Air Canada and Via Rail.

Through bluster and the usual muddled chatter with his straight man, an opinion got through -- How dare these corporations complain. They know nothing about hockey. They should shut up, and keep paying the bills.

Go, Don, go. Please, far away.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Politically Correct Hockey

Copy sent to the Ontario Hockey Association. No reply.

The Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) should stick to what it knows best -- teaching young men to bash into each other. Concussion may be the by-product.

An OHA appeals board has upheld a player's seven-game suspension. His crime? He called a tall person on the other team "amazon".  A board member explained the draconian punishment by claiming the young man's intent was to disparage the opponent. As if one yells at opponents to encourage them.

With mind-numbing logic, the referee testified that "amazon" has a distinct geographic and regional connotation, and fits the league's ruling against using race and ethnicity in a derogatory fashion.

The 20-year-old guilty party: "We're leaving it to the referee to define the English language in the heat of a game. [The black opponent] looked like a tree, and the Amazon Forest was the first thing that popped into my mind."

In the manner of a human rights tribunal, the OHA requires an accused prove innocence. Confronted by irrationality, the young man could not. The association's extremist ideology leaves no room for board discretion. In a cowardly manner, the OHA hides behind the right-wing policy of "zero tolerance", even when it's dead wrong. The seven-game suspension was automatic.

The Ontario Hockey Association must feel cleansed.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

No More Apologies and Presentism

Let us end the currently popular need for apology. Dredging up real or imagined historical grievances fosters a mentality of victimization, a hope of compensation, possibly a monument which would serve only to perpetuate feelings of entitlement.

In her book, The Uses and Abuses of History, Margaret MacMillan asks, "Is it healthy for societies to apologize for things that were done in different centuries and under different sets of beliefs?"

The former University of Toronto history professor and now at Oxford adds, "It is all too easy to rummage through the past and find nothing but a list of grievances, and many countries and peoples have done it."

"Politicians and others have been quick to make all sorts of apologies, even when it is difficult to see why they need feel any responsibility -- or what good an apology would do," Professor MacMillian wrote in The National Post.

In her book, she states, "The past can be used for almost anything you want to do in the present ... If the study of history does nothing more than teach us humility, skepticism and awareness of ourselves, then it has done something useful."

She concludes, "We should be wary of grand claims in history's name, or those who claim to have uncovered the truth once and for all. In the end, my only advice is to use it, enjoy it, but always handle history with care."

Add to this the opinion of Andrew Wheatcroft, Director of the Centre for Publishing Studies, University of Stirling. In a private e-mail he states, "I believe the whole notion of 'apologies' is ludicrous, and demeaning to those at whom the apology is directed. 'Apologies' also deny the whole notion of the past and simply extend the present backwards."

Roland N. Stromberg cautions that one should not demand that past epochs conform to current prejudices, and thus commit the sin of  excessive" present-mindedness" -- the distortion of the past by forcing it into a mold of recent construction. European Intellectual History since 1789, p.83.

This is also called the error of "presentism", that is, the judging of past events by current standards.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Law is not Justice

"The middle class has been shut out of a justice system that caters primarily to the very rich and the very poor, the country's top judge recently told a group of legal luminaries ... Do we have adequate access to justice?" asked Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin (Toronto Star, Feb 11, 2011).

The public wonders why legal practitioners aggrandize their trade by equating it to justice. Law is a process. Justice may or may not be the product of that process. Laws change every day. Justice never. One does not access justice upon issuing a writ. Rather, it is entrance into a complex legal process the outcome of which is doubtful. We do not have courts of justice. They are courts of law.

The confusion may be due to the word "judicial." It sounds like justice, but it the means legal.

In society, justice is rendered through a strong education system, a good health care system, an adequate social welfare system, and somewhere down the line through an equitable law system.

Further confusion is caused by titles bestowed. Why are they termed "Mister or Madame Justice So and So"? Are people who rise in other professions styled Professor Educated Jones? Dr. Healthy Harley? Madame Chief Social Welfare Smith? Worse still are the politicians with the title Minister of Justice when their job is to enforce law as written, not seek justice.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Pan Am Games

The Toronto Star supports the Pan Am Games. My unpublished letter of March 5, 2009.

Where are Toronto's priorities? We are about to shut down 39 public swimming pools due to lack of funds. Yet, the city is today spending millions of dollars in a bid to win the 2015 Pan Am Games. Some politicians and their hangers-on want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stage another bloated extravaganza.

The fact that this waste of money will be shared by other levels of government, and spread over a number of years, masks the fact that it still increases the burden on taxpayers who may have other priorities.

Update: January 16, 2011. The cost of these games is now estimated to be $96.5 million, almost double the original of $49.5 million. Construction has not even started.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Translating Tapestries

"Translation from one language to another is like looking at a tapestry on the wrong side." When Miguel de Cervantes put these words into the mouth of his protagonist, Don Quixote, he was speaking for millions of us forced to read great books in translation.

I first read Death in Venice by Thomas Mann decades ago. As is my practice, I made margin notes. These I later transcribed to the book’s inside back cover. About ten years after the first reading, I read a later translation of this German masterpiece.

During this second reading, I awaited in vain the appearance of turns of phrase I had earlier noted. The1925 translation: His steps followed the promptings of the demon who delights in treading human reason and dignity underfoot.  In 1954, this became: His footsteps guided by the demoniac power whose pastime it is to trample on human reason and dignity. Fine, possibly truer to the original, but I prefer the earlier rendering.

We are doomed merely to prefer one translation over another.

We may only hope for a translation that conveys the essential thought of the author. Witness The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Salient among other translations, we have that of Edward Fitzgerald -- a magical blending of the poet's thought and the translator's command of our language. A 1979 translation of the Persian astronomer's work conveys his ideas, but not in the glorious language of Victorian Fitzgerald.

My English professor criticized a translation of the French gem The Little Prince by lamented Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Much meaning has been missed, he said, and urged us to read the original. I noted powerful differences. For example, one English dedication has the author claiming the dedicatee needs "cheering up." The French states that the author's friend "a bien besoin d'être consolée." Not the same, especially if one is aware of the context. The book was written during the dark days of the Second World War. The author's friend was hungry and cold in Nazi-occupied France, while he is warm and well fed and in New York. More than cheering up was needed.

All of this came to mind as I attempted to reconcile two translations of The Book of The Courtier, the Italian Renaissance work of genius by Baldesare Castiglione. In later editions, "a salutary craft," becomes "a healthy deception", "a grossness of dull wits" reads "obtuse insensitivity," and for "subtleties" we read "sophistries".   Unless we look at the front of the tapestry -- reading the original Italian, we will never know which translation approaches closest to the author's intent.

Even within our beautiful language, we face problems. The various editions of the works of William Shakespeare (who died on the same date as Cervantes) present problems. We may understand "tainted" becoming "diseased." But what of "the all-binding law" modernized into "the all-building law"? In Measure for Measure, Angelo has been transformed from "precise" to "prenzie," whatever that means. What is the difference between "headstrong jades" and "headstrong weeds" when they both mean spoiled horses?

Given all this, perhaps Cervantes did not write the opening observation of this essay. I may have merely quoted what one of this many translators wanted me to read.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Human Rights Commissions for Fun and Profit

A copy of the blog post has been sent to Jeff Poirier, Senior Policy Analyst Designated, Policy, Education, & Monitory; Outreach, Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The first thing you need to know is that human rights tribunals are theatre. The better your performance, the greater your chance of financial success. Be honest. If it weren't for the money, you wouldn't be there. Your complaint is a time investment.

Unlike as in a real court, you need not be the "injured" party. You may claim on behalf of people who do not bother to complain themselves, or of people who may not even exist. There is no need to prove anyone was hurt, just maybe, perhaps, might have been, tended to have been hurt or offended. In a real court, the complainant must prove actual damage.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission/Tribunal states that you need only be "bothered" (their word) by someone because of race, colour or ancestry to establish racism. In Saskatchewan, you need only claim that the behaviour exposed you to hatred, ridicule, be belittled, or it was an affront to your dignity. These are terms so vague they would be thrown out of a real court, but are the meat of tribunals. If you cannot prove a specific instance, allege a pattern of whatever it is you abject to. Again, no proof required.

Harassment, for example, may be conduct with the effect of violating your dignity or creating an environment that is intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive. It's all about feelings. Feel-good commissions thrive on vagueness.

The weepier your grievance, the better. Truth is irrelevant. You cannot be charged with perjury no matter how outrageously false your statements may be. Describe in great detail hurt feelings, even if you are simply imagining them on behalf of someone else. Claim injury to dignity, feelings, self-respect and anything else you find in a thesaurus.

By law, the accused must appear before the commission, perhaps with legal counsel at his own expense. You have already hurt him financially. Even if he is declared innocent after days of testimony, he cannot claim legal expenses against you. Some accused persons have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then found innocent. There is no chance of reimbursement, even though someone's reputation may have been damaged in the process.

Start a cult, no matter how outrageous. Then add religious discrimination to your complaint.

The commission may order a police raid on the accused's home, office, cottage, houseboat, whatever. So, imply evidence may be anywhere, even in their gym locker. Spread the embarrassment as much as possible. The police may take what they want: files, computers, cameras, books. The tribunals may keep them for however long they wish. The case could drag on for weeks, perhaps months, thereby putting the accused out of business. So, even if you don't win, it's better than breaking even, because you will have harmed someone you don't like. Feel good about it. It's legal. And it did not cost you a cent.

When you appear before a commissioner, claim the victim high ground. Keep it vague. Commissions love to fill in the blanks. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Hire an acting coach. Here's how best to play the victimization card:

1. Depending on the situation, and as often as possible, work into your deliberately stumbling speech those buzz words that set Utopian adjudicators' hearts all aflutter: racism (rampant racism is better), homophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, hateful, bigoted, intolerant, discriminatory, abusive, exclusionary, profiling, harassment and negative differential treatment (code for discrimination), colour, ancestry, disability, and family status. Adjudicators love that wonder word "systemic." It means everything; it means nothing. It lets you condemn an entire workplace, the owner of which may be innocent of any wrong-doing, but will still have to pay.

Much is good. Too much is better. Overload is best. It all helps the commission to write a favourable judgement.

2. Claim that since the time of the offence which occurred months, years earlier, your human dignity still feels hurt, that you suffer loss of  -- sleep, weight, sex drive, work opportunities, friends, family, waking hours, feelings and self-respect. Claim you also have medical issues such as fear of leaving home, fear that people look at you and talk funny about you, and that you have become moody and isolated. The word "stress" sounds good, as in "post-traumatic stress disorder," although few know what it means. Even vaguer, and therefore better, is "severe separation anxiety." You need not prove any of this, just claim it. The accused cannot possibly disprove it. How does one disprove something that did not occur? The odds are always in your favour.

It's a low burden of proof on your part, while the accused, already presumed guilty, must prove innocence "on the preponderance of evidence." This is the common failing of such tribunals that are sprouting up all over the world.

3. A tear of two would not be out of order. If the case in any way involves physical action, claim the defendant acted in a "threatening manner by creating a hostile environment." You may even suppose he acted in this manner. No one can question how you claim you felt. It might boost the cash prize by a few thousand.

4. Constantly refer to feelings. Tribunals like feelings. They also like tendencies and likelihood. Boldly state that the accused's real or imagined behaviour likely might have tended to expose you or some fictitious person to hurt feelings. Don't let it bother you that this strips away any semblance of objective legal reasonableness. It's all to your benefit.

5. Try to get bleeding-heart media coverage. It could only be a plus. They like the word "devastated." So work that one in somewhere.

6. Adjudicators and commissioners, all political appointees, are empire builders, and always in the market for expanded authority, for new "human rights", for new crimes. One of them recently dreamed up "unconscious racism." Any ideas for new offences you might dangle before them would be gratefully received. Try "structural racism." These people constitute a bureaucracy of solutions looking for problems.

There is a current movement seeking to equate human and animal rights. So, if you have a pet whose dignity you feel was likely tended to be hurt by the accused, even unconsciously, work that into your tale. If your dog is a Dalmatian or Mexican hairless, claim canine racism.

7. End your speech with an emotional plea for diversity, tolerance, understanding, affirmative action. No matter what your complaint, this will just about guarantee success.

8. Claim that no amount of money could possibly restore your lost human dignity etc., but thousands of dollars would go a long way to easing the pain, attracting friends, attracting family, improving sexual performance, restoring weight, getting a good job, blah, blah, blah. Whatever the problem, money will solve it. These days, commissioners favour awards of around $25,000.

The really good news is that Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall wants authority to impose unlimited penalties. You might get enough to retire before she does.

Follow these instructions, and claim the pot of gold at the end of the human rights rainbow.